State Services Commission, August 2008. To print or download this fact sheet, use the PDF version attached above.

Key Facts

  • Social assistance services had the second lowest satisfaction rating of all the Kiwis Count service groupings.
  • This service grouping was below average for all six 'drivers' of satisfaction and particularly on 'staff were competent' and 'the service experience met your expectations'.
  • New Zealanders used a wide range of methods for contacting social assistance services, but rated this service grouping poorly in relation to other service groupings for ease of accessing services.


Kiwis Count is the first all-of-government survey to ask New Zealanders about their perceptions and experiences of public services.

Kiwis Count prompted New Zealanders about their experiences with a list of 42 services which broadly represented services provided by central and local government, tertiary education institutions and kindergartens. These services were categorised into nine service groupings. This factsheet sets out some key information for the social assistance grouping.

Below are the services included in this grouping along with the percentage of New Zealanders who had used them in the past 12 months.



The Community Services Card


Accident compensation for injuries


Sickness, domestic purposes or unemployment benefit


New Zealand Superannuation


A housing subsidy or accommodation supplement


A childcare subsidy


State or council rental accommodation


A Community Grant


The most commonly used service in the grouping was the Community Services Card. Relatively few New Zealanders had applied for a Community Grant or for state or council rental accommodation.

Who's using social assistance services?

Compared with the survey average, New Zealanders who used social assistance services were more likely to be aged over 65 (26% compared with 15%). A higher than average proportion were Māori and Pacific Islanders (15% and 9% compared with survey averages of 11% and 6% respectively). They were also more likely to have no qualifications and earn less than $30,000 per annum. As might be expected, use of social assistance services decreased as incomes rose.

Why are they using social assistance services?

Getting help or advice with a problem and applying for or requesting a specific service were the main reasons that New Zealanders used social assistance services (33% and 32% respectively). Fewer New Zealanders contacted them to use a specific service than the survey average (15% compared with 35%).

Just over half of New Zealanders who used social assistance services did so because they chose to, which was a similar proportion to the survey average. Others contacted them because they felt it was a government requirement (25% compared with an average of 32%) or for both reasons (24% compared with 17%).

How are they contacting social assistance services?

New Zealanders used a wide range of methods to contact social assistance services. Just over one third of New Zealanders who used social assistance services visited an office or location. This was lower than the survey average of 47%. A quarter called on the telephone, in line with the survey average and just over a quarter received a letter, the highest proportion of all the service groupings for this contact method.

60% of New Zealanders using social assistance services were satisfied with the contact method they had used, the second lowest rating of all the service groupings. This compares with a survey average of 70%. For the survey as a whole, visiting an office or location had the highest satisfaction rating at 75%, while calling on the telephone had the lowest, at 60%.

Social assistance services also had the second lowest rating for accessing services: only 58% of New Zealanders using social assistance services felt they were easy to access on their most recent service experience, compared with an average of 74%.

Performance against the drivers

New Zealanders were asked about satisfaction with their most recent service experience. Satisfaction with social assistance services was 52%, compared with an average of 68%. This was the second lowest of all the service groupings. New Zealanders were also asked about the overall quality of services they had used in the last 12 months. For most service groupings, New Zealanders rated the service they had used most recently more favourably than the services they had experienced over the last 12 months. However, for social assistance services, New Zealanders rated their most recent service experience less favourably (at 52%) than their experiences over the last 12 months (at 59%).

Kiwis Count measured satisfaction in relation to the six main 'drivers', or factors, which influence New Zealanders' satisfaction with public services. The results were broken down into the nine service groupings. The following table shows average satisfaction and satisfaction for social assistance services.

Social assistance services performed below average for all drivers. The lowest scoring driver was 'you feel your individual circumstances were taken into account'. The biggest gap between social assistance services and the average was on 'staff were competent', the lowest rating for this driver of all the service groupings. 'The service met your expectations' was also well below average. This is the most important driver of satisfaction and accounts for nearly one third of satisfaction with public services. Closest to average was 'it's an example of good value for tax dollars spent'.

Performance against the drivers of satisfaction for most recent service experience



Satisfaction with public services is a complex area and it is harder to achieve satisfaction for some types of services than others. However, these results suggest that there is room for improvement in staff competency, taking individual circumstances into account and meeting expectations of services. Addressing these areas will lead to improved satisfaction. Satisfaction with accessing services is low: further analysis will show whether particular contact methods should be targeted for improvement.

For more information

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